In the contact center industry, we tend to think of digital customer experience only as a thing we control. But it’s embedded inside every interaction in the digi-sphere a person has with your company. Your digital CX is the way an agent answers an email or sends out a chat. It’s the website design and language. It’s the ease of finding the right balance between self-help and hand-holding. And, according to a study from PWC, nearly three out of four consumers are looking to your customer experience when they choose to buy from you.
But almost half of those consumers think you’re failing. In fact, research from the same PWC study showed only 49% of U.S. consumers think companies deliver a good customer experience.
In today’s corporate landscape every company claims to be customer-centric. But actually prioritizing experience in every step of the customer journey is hard. New digital channels pop up constantly, and customers find different routes to connect with brands every day. It takes time, money, effort, attention span, and cross-functional collaboration to deliver a customer experience that’s rooted in the digital world and gets a resounding “Woohoo!” from customers. But it’s worth the effort.
Temkin Group found that a moderate increase in customer experience generates an average revenue increase of $823 million over three years for a company with $1 billion in annual revenues. That’s about an 80% increase in revenue in only three years. What’s more, a strong customer experience leads to a greater ROI for company stakeholders. Forbes writer Blake Morgan found companies that invest in customer experience boast a higher stock price. In fact, according to Colin Shaw, CEO of Beyond Philosophy, organizations that lead in customer experience outperform laggards in the S&P 500 index by almost 80%. It’s true. Companies improving their experience reap the rewards for their stockholders and stakeholders.
But you can’t improve your CX, or even maintain the status quo, in a vacuum. You need collaboration and a well-documented strategy for your digital customer experience.
How to Create a Digital Customer Experience Strategy in your Contact Center
Customer experience involves the entire customer lifecycle, so you can’t go it alone. As a contact center manager, you won’t control the entire company’s CX strategy. But you are responsible for aligning and contributing with your department.
Your agents, and your business unit, are vital in keeping customers happy. And you have to keep pace with the changing demands of customers (and employees) in an era when omnichannel, bots, and new technology run the show.
Here are four steps you can take to deliver a modern customer experience to power the customer journey.
Step 1: Use your contact center goals and customer-centric vision as your guide
Prioritizing experience isn’t a new concept. Companies have been using it as a competitive advantage for generations. Take, for example, a story from Bruce Jones, Senior Programming Director at the Disney Institute. Several years ago, the Disney team worked with a car dealership to improve customer experience. While sales weren’t suffering, the management team worried customers and employees weren’t happy. So, Bruce and his team joined forces to create an intentional strategy focused around the customer at every touchpoint. And when the whole dealership got on board with the strategy they saw a 26% increase in sales.
They used their CX goals to drive the customer experience forward. How? By knowing their audience and having a customer-centric mindset.
Where to start:
Together as a team, set goals about how you want to help your customers. Work with your agents to create high-level goals and a contact center mission that links back to your company’s overarching mission.
Once you have your goals mapped out, learn more about your customers to help you help them. Craft customer portfolios based on the customers who reach out to you. Use data from your CRM or contact center platform to help you create these personas.
Track KPIs, pull a handful of call transcriptions and gather information on what channels your customers use most often. Watch your customers’ behavior to learn what they want and how you can deliver on it.
Data-driven personas help your agents envision exactly who they communicate with every day. The more detailed, the better! If your primary customer is a woman between 18 – 30 who lives in the city, you might create a persona like this:
- Brittany Jones, 28
- Communicates most often via live chat and Twitter
- Works long hours and is passionate about her job
With all the info your agents have on Brittany, you can tailor the service experience to her needs and past behavior. For instance, she’s an ideal customer to seek self-service tools before asking an agent for help. If she’s picking up the phone to call in, her problem requires hands-on attention.
Step 2: Get customer feedback and sentiment details
How do you know what makes a positive experience for your customers if you don’t ask them?
Create a digital trail of your customers’ sentiment and feelings about your brand. Send Customer Satisfaction Surveys to understand what your customers like and dislike about your service.
McKinsey said the ideal customer-experience measurement system puts journeys at the center. Then, it connects them to things like business outcomes and operational improvements. So, measure your customers’ satisfaction and get a full picture of how they feel. Use metrics like a Net Promoter Score and a Customer Effort Score in tandem, too.
Where to start:
Rely on your contact center data and gather customer surveys to help you understand where pressure points exist for your customers.
Use digital tools to automate the process for you, so you always have fresh survey data on hand to inform your decision making and address pain points in your CX. Automate a CSAT survey to send 15 minutes after each customer interaction. And, tailor the survey to the channels your customers prefer.
If you’re sending a survey to Brittany, you know she communicates through digital channels like chat and Twitter. Sending Brittany a phone survey likely won’t end with a response. Meet your customers where they are and tailor your surveys to their channel preferences to collect more actionable data.
Automate your customer surveys and tailor channels to your customer preferences. Check out Sharpen’s approach to Customer Surveys.
Step 3: Upskill your agents and coach your agents for greater empathy
The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2022, 54% of employees will need serious upskilling to stay relevant in their current roles. Part of delivering a standout customer experience is adapting to the digital era and how customers interact with a company. In a few years, video chats could be as frequent as phone calls and customers will talk to bots more often than their spouse. It’s important to keep your agents trained and expand their ability to keep up with digital demands.
As a part of your effort to upskill your agents, coach them on emotional intelligence and empathy. Empathy is everything when delivering a good customer experience. It’s one of the most important skills for your agents.
Research shows the tone your agents use to deliver a message represents 38% of the way your customers perceive the message. Since contact center interactions usually don’t include body language or facial expressions, tone becomes the biggest contributor to the way a customer feels the call is going.
Where to start:
Create leave-behind materials for your agents to refer to as a resource during interactions. To improve empathy, your agents’ tone in emails and chats is equally as important as in phone conversations. Develop a tone and style guide for agents to use when drafting written messages to customers.
Use in-line training and agent coaching tools to upskill your agents, so they can deliver better customer service experiences. Without moving from your desk, in-line training lets you send agents feedback about their tone or language with customers. These tools offer contextual learning for your agents, so you can identify key moments in interactions that are ripe for coaching. Then, you can tag in feedback on the interaction, so agents know exactly where they veered off course in customer conversations. They can use the feedback to course-correct for their next conversation, so they constantly improve how to handle customers.
Next up, track your customer experience and track frequent issues in interactions. Set up monitoring for words like “cancel,” “frustrated,” or “angry” and digitally follow how your customers feel, and how your agents handled the follow-up. Then, step in for severely escalated issues, or coach your agents to work through these tough interactions.
Step 4: Empower your agents to deliver seamless experiences with omnichannel tools
Your customer experience relies on the people who work for you. Regardless of how great your software is or your KPIs appear, if you don’t have competent and consistent employees, your customer experience will suffer. Behind every interaction, your customers expect an empowered agent to resolve their inquiries and problems quickly and correctly.
Customers are used to the personalization and ease of digital services like Google and Amazon. And they now expect the same kind of service from everyone else. Research shows that 51% of customers will leave after just one bad experience.
Empower your agents with the right tools and resources they need to deliver seamless experiences. Are your channels cohesive? Can your customer reach out by phone and switch to text messaging if needed? Do your agents have access to customer data to inform their conversations? How long are your customers on hold?
Consider how your customer experiences every kind of interaction and make sure your agents have the tools and accessibility to make your customer journey seamless.
Where to start:
Omnichannel tools connect your agents to customers where and when it works for them. Your agents don’t have to juggle tons of different desktop applications to solve a single customer problem. And, the right set of omnichannel tools links together all your customer data, so agents are always informed and can confidently enter conversations.
Even better, the right suite of tools uses automation to get rid of day-to-day tasks that can grow tedious. When you use an agent-first contact center platform, your agents can focus on the meaning of their work — caring for their customers. And you, as a manager, have access to better coaching and training tools to push agents towards growth and professional development. All this binds together to create a better experience for your agents. That positive agent experience makes it easier to keep top talent and to empower your team with what they need to problem-solve for your customers.
Agents who are excited to come to work, and willing to work harder for their own future, will naturally deliver a great customer experience. And when you deliver a great customer experience, your business, agents, and customers can all thrive.